Audrey and Doug Attrill have been married nearly 72 years and are in the running to be New Zealand's longest married couple.

The pair met 77 years ago at a local park near Mrs Attrill's home in New Plymouth. Mr Attrill ended up doubling his future wife home on his bicycle.

"I thought he was a slight little guy and I was quite a tall girl, I didn't think that much of it but then afterwards we used to see each other around and wave to each other, that sort of thing," Mrs Attrill told The Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.

Mrs Attrill, 90, said her beau left school and worked at the Bank of Australasia for a year before being signed to the navy in 1941.

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He was drafted to a ship in the Middle East and sent the occasional telegram to Mrs Attrill. Eventually he came home and the pair were married on May 1, 1944, at the St Joseph's Catholic Church in the King Country.

"They say absence makes the heart grow fonder," she said.

Mrs Attrill said weddings were different then.

"It was very hard to get material to make wedding gowns and there wasn't always white material around, we had coupons to get every little bit of material."

On her wedding day she was able to get enough together to wear "a pretty little dress and a hat" although no photos were taken on the day as film was too expensive.

"It wasn't a big wedding. Travelling was difficult, everything was difficult. But we were very happy to be finally married.

"It had been an exciting type of courtship, Doug would be here one minute and he would be called back the next and have to just go no matter where he was."

They started their married lives in the district before moving back to Taranaki when their first child, Viviene, now 70, came along. They had another daughter, Dianne, now 69, and now have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Growing up in similar circumstances was one thing Mrs Attrill thought had kept the pair together for so long. They had both lost a parent early in life, had come from similar backgrounds and shared the same values.

"We believed that marriage was a sacred thing and when we were married we automatically believed it was forever. We never thought of separation if things didn't please us. A marriage is not a flash dress, a wedding cake, a big crown and a party, that is not what marriage is all about. That's what young people think it is today. But it's something more than that. Stick to the old values and you won't go wrong."

Mr Attrill said the couple had always had lots of fun together too. "We kept life interesting, we've travelled everywhere. We still have lots of fun sitting on our chairs side by side, reminiscing these days: 'do you remember so and so and this and that'."

That was the beauty of marrying someone from the same area, he said.

Doug, 92, and Audrey, 90, Attrill in their home. The pair have been married 71 years and met when they were in their early teens. Photo / Ruth Keber
Doug, 92, and Audrey, 90, Attrill in their home. The pair have been married 71 years and met when they were in their early teens. Photo / Ruth Keber

The search is on

Nominations are open to any married couple (either NZ citizen or NZ resident) and may be submitted by email admin@familyfirst.org.nz or by posting to Family First NZ, PO Box 276-133, Manukau City 2241.

Nominations will be taken until January 15, 2016 with the winners named on February 14, 2016 (Valentine's Day) to coincide with National Marriage Week.